The Clock's Ticking on California's New Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

by Libby Bevin on July 29, 2019

With the end of 2019 approaching fast, it’s time for employers to take steps to comply with California’s substantially expanded sexual harassment training requirements.

Back in 2018, California’s then-Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 1343, amending the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The new regulation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, is intended to raise employee awareness of harassment and discrimination. As state Senator Holly J. Mitchell, author of SB 1343 explained, “In order for this culture shift around sexual harassment prevention to be successful, workers need to feel confident in their workplace policies and procedures.”

If you’re a California employer, there’s a high probability that your organization will be affected. According to a statement by Mitchell, the regulation will impact 15.5 million employees, or 92% of California’s workforce.

Does my organization need to comply with sexual harassment training requirements?

Under the expanded regulation, California employers with five or more employees must provide at least one hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to all nonsupervisory employees and at least two hours to all supervisory employees by January 1, 2020.

Keep in mind that the way the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) defines “employees” may not be the same as how your organization uses the term. These five “employees” include those who are full-time or part-time, hourly or salaried, permanent or temporary, W-2 staff or 1099 independent contractors, and those located anywhere in the world.

What are the deadlines for sexual harassment training compliance in California?

All employees must complete the mandatory training after January 1, 2019 but before January 1, 2020. If you trained employees back in 2018, you have to train them again by the time the clock strikes midnight this New Year’s Eve. The California legislature is considering another bill, SB 778, which if passed would extend this deadline.

New employees and people promoted to a supervisory role must complete the training within 6 months of being hired or promoted. Temporary and seasonal employees, and any employee hired to work for six months or less, must complete the training within 30 days of being hired or within the first 100 hours worked, whichever comes first.

After meeting the initial deadline, employees have to complete the training again at least once every two years.

What sexual harassment training are California employers required to provide?

Broadly speaking, the training needs to cover the prevention of sexual harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace, as well as harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The training must be specific and practical, and include realistic example scenarios plus information on what people can do if they believe they are a victim of sexual harassment.

The instruction must be provided at no cost to employees, who must be paid for the time they spend on any online or offline course on the training. Employees may take the training individually or as a group, and alongside other courses. The training can be broken up into shorter segments, so long as the hourly requirement is met.

An expert in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation must develop and lead the training. In-person, e-learning, and online formats are all allowed. Whatever format your organization uses must be interactive, giving employees a way to ask questions and receive answers.

Your organization may choose a training included with your learning management system, develop the training yourself, or use DFEH’s online course, which should be available in late 2019. DFEH also published a training toolkit that employers can use in conjunction with a qualified trainer.

The new regulation is just the minimum requirement. DFEH encourages employers to provide longer, more in-depth, or more frequent training.

What sexual harassment training compliance records do employers need to keep?

Per the new California regulation, employers must give employees a certificate of completion they can print and save electronically. Employers also need to continue to keep detailed records for two years after the completion of sexual harassment training. Storing these records in your learning management system can help your organization stay compliant with California’s expanded training requirements.

To learn how NEOGOV can help your organization comply by the deadline, schedule a demo today

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Libby Bevin

Libby Bevin is a content writer and editor for NEOGOV. Libby earned a Master of Arts in English Literature and Language from Wake Forest University and a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Stetson University. Contact Libby at lbevin@neogov.net.